Statistics is an area of mathematics that collects, organizes and analyzes numerical data to identify existent patterns and probabilities inherent in the data.
Statistics works with sets of numbers obtained from measurements made on a process, population or series of events. Statisticians must ensure that the sample data worked with is representative of the topic at hand in order to make accurate predictions.
There are four overall types of statistical study.
- Applied statistics focuses on the descriptive and inferential implications of the data being studied;
- Descriptive statistics is used to summarize a collection of data;
- Inferential statistics is based on the patterns observed from the descriptive data; and
- Mathematical statistics concentrates on theories inherent in the subject being studied via the statistical data obtained. Probability theory, linear algebra and analysis are used extensively to formulate these theories.
The mathematical principles underlying the statistical process originated in the seventeenth century when probability theory was first introduced by Pascal and Fermat. However, the use of statistics dates back to our earliest civilizations.
Prior to 3000 BC, the Babylonian empire tabulated yields from agricultural crops, and kept track of commodities bought and sold on the open market. The Egyptians and the Roman Empire both gathered data on their respective population censuses, as well.
The descriptive approach is used to describe basic characteristics of the data being study. Using graphical data displays, tables of data and their resulting measures, statisticians can make a quantitative analysis on the subject under study as a whole.
The inferential approach is used to delineate an unknown aspect, or variable, affecting the data being studied. In doing so, statisticians rely on probability measures, pattern assumptions, estimated parameters and hypothesis testing to justify apparent outcomes.
The application of statistics features two main approach methods that identify cause and effect variables within a process, system or series of events.
· The experimental method measures the subject under study, then manipulates an aspect of the process or system, and then measures again to determine existing cause and effect variables.
· The observational method gathers observed data and correlates cause and effect variables based on observation only.
Today, statistics is used within the fields of economics, politics, sociology, psychology, biology and the earth sciences to correlate and analyze data obtained. Through data collection and analysis, statistics gives us the ability to extract meaning from concrete data and make informed decisions.
The application of probability theory in statistical analysis allows for systems planning within most every aspect of the society in which we live.
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